But if you eliminate the cleaning supplies and my husband's purchase of a big pack of gum and Tums, I have spent just $53.69 on food at Costco, bringing my weekly grocery total to $83.69. In my defense, I used coupons at Costco for the first time and I saved $12.50, including $2.50 on wet and dry refills for the Swiffer mop.
That night I lie in bed examining my Costco receipt, analyzing -- and rationalizing -- my purchases. If I hadn't gone to Costco, would I really have been tempted to buy the large package of Skinny Cow Ice Cream sandwiches ($9.69)? But, on the other hand, I did get good buys -- $3.99 for a package of organic salad greens that will last all week.
Was it really wise to buy the mega-pack of Bounty towels for $16.99 and what about the giant pack of Charmin toilet paper ("six rolls seem like 15, " or so it says) for $16.99? I tell myself that since I only go to Costco once a month, these purchases will be amortized over the next four weeks.
With that I roll over to go to sleep. But, oh, the shame of a Swiffer purchase!
Jan. 22: I'm beginning to wonder if I should be nickel-and-diming my husband over his purchases of Lean Pockets, gum and Coke. I need to remind myself that $70 a week is a target for grocery expenditures. It is not written in stone. Then I look in the refrigerator to see if any of the cola is left, because at this point, I truly would like a rum and Coke.
Jan. 23: I notice the bananas on the counter are sporting brown freckles. They will not be wasted. I turn them into banana bread.
Jan. 24: Sunday's leftover flank steak becomes today's pepper steak -- with banana peppers from my garden.
My husband comes back from picking up a prescription with a bottle of shampoo for my daughter. She doesn't need it, and I question her. "I didn't say buy it, I just said I would need some at some point, " she protests. More shampoo is something my household definitely doesn't need. I swear the shampoo bottles spawn in the shower overnight.
Jan. 26: My daughter cracks. She rings me after school and says she is going to dinner with her friends at a sushi restaurant. Just wait a week because we're almost at the end of the no-spend month, I tell her. "I've turned them down five times in a row, " she protests and then puts on the hard sell. "I just got paid today and I'm taking an extra job Sunday helping kids make paper sculptures. It pays $50, " she says. "Oh, or I could just go and not eat. And how pathetic would that be?" My colleagues at work suggest she take a PB&J sandwich with her and offer that old chestnut about not counting her chickens before they've hatched.
She's not buying it, but offers this compromise: "I'll just get two pieces of sushi when the boat comes around. What's that, $4?" But those little boats loaded down with sushi and sashimi were like a siren call. When I ask the next day about what she selected, she tells me, "Crab and all kinds of good stuff." Her tab: $11 plus tip.
Jan. 27: A Saturday afternoon and I find my husband at the kitchen table, clipping coupons! A breakthrough.
Jan. 28: Instead of reading novels to fall asleep at night, I've started to pick up personal finance books. In Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People, Jane Bryant Quinn suggests analyzing your spending, listing all expenses and putting a big X next to the purchases you could have lived without. "You'll be surprised at how big the X number is (the food dehydrator? . . . the Acura instead of the Honda?), " she writes.